Imagine seven days of riding technical Pacific NW singletrack, enough camaraderie to match the competitive spirit in the air, and racing on trails that you are excited to ride. You might find yourself using descriptors like “ultimate” or “epic” among other words too often misapplied – but not in this case. The BC Bike Race earns its title as the “Ultimate Singletrack Experience,” and what’s more, that experience is more than singletrack alone. For instance, you and 549 of your new-found friends get to live out of a single (if big) duffel bag while traversing the province for a week, but the 10-year old kid in you should be excited about that, too.
There is far too much one could say about the BC Bike Race as a whole, not to mention the individual stages. But with wonderful race reports already available on Bike, Pinkbike and other sites, I offer here my personal impression of this year’s race. See my general event highlights below, followed by more specific stage details and course descriptions.
• From start to finish, the well-planned 2013 course took riders along beloved trails across Vancouver Island and along the Sunshine Coast, finishing up in the mountain biking Promised Land of Whistler, BC. I did miss racing in Nanaimo this year (which we rode during the 2010 BCBR), but the added stage in Campbell River offered an excellent replacement to round out the Vancouver Island tour.
• The beautiful BC scenery included several stunning ferry rides…
• Participants included super cool, fun people from all over the world: Canadians, Australians, 93 Mexicans (!), and many other nationalities represented. I especially loved riding with my Sturdy Bitch Racing teammates:)
• The BCBR crew included medical staff kept super busy by riders needing everything from ice to IVs. Thanks goes out to Dr. Colin for his Rocktape applications that helped support my low back and reduced hand fatigue, and surely helped countless other riders besides.
• Thanks to Therm-a-Rest for helping the Sturdy Bitch Racing team sleep in plush comfort…
…and Platypus for outfitting us with well-fitting, women-specific hydration packs.
• Lots of waiting around
• Trail traffic
• Lots of waiting around
Day 1: Cumberland (Distance: 55.5K; Elevation Gain: 1474 meters)
With its slickrock sections, slick roots and mossy rock descents, this stage featuring Cumberland’s Forbidden Plateau was the perfect way to kick off the BC Bike Race: with more than a little adrenaline to crank up the fun factor.
Day 2: Campbell River (Distance: 54K; Elevation Gain: 944 meters)
More of the same… namely, awesome trails and epic riding. From Box Lunch trail to Foreplay (named, I suppose, for the fun, slickrock trail that I love riding up in Whistler), the riding on this stage made me start planning for a return trip to the Snowden Forest.
I even got a brief cameo near the end (4:30) of the BCBR video coverage of that stage: http://bcbikerace.com/news-and-media/videos/2013-videos/day22013
Day 3: Powell River (Distance: 48.5K; Elevation Gain: 755 meters)
While bit too flat overall for my taste (I found the repetitive, numbing roots hard to sit to on my hardtail), I loved loved loved the steep earthen descent with big roots that characterized the first Enduro (“Death Rattle”). Railing the corners and throwing down feels second nature when you are serenaded by a guy at the finish line wailing on an electric guitar like the 80’s never left. Nice leopard pants and glam rock hair, by the way. While I did get my first flat of the race during this Enduro (Stan’s shot out both side walls like a geyser), I still managed to pull out a 6th place. Thanks for the inspiration, leopard pants.
Day 4: Earl’s Cove to Sechelt (Distance: 61K; Elevation Gain: 1574 meters)
Endless fire road. Four flats. Two miles of walking to Feed Zone 2. You see where this is going. Despite all our pre-race stretching, the mileage – not to mention the mechanical and emotional challenges of this 61K stage (fire road riding can be as deflating as flat tires) – took its toll. But so many people offered their help during my mechanical delays that I now equate this grueling stage with the simple kindness of humanity. Special thanks to Simon, the crew member helping out at Feed Zone 2 who loaned me a tire to finish the stage.
Day 5: Sechelt to Langdale (Distance: 35.9K; Elevation Gain: 1328 meters)
These trails marked our return to what I call mountain biking, with lots of singletrack flow, plus a thrilling descent for the last 10K, including Sprokids Park, my new favorite. (Lowlight: losing my pump during the first Enduro, then stopping to go back to get it, then losing it again on the next Enduro. Doh! But I did get another cameo at 2:46 on the BC Bike Race’s daily video clip–and so did my teammate Katie!)
Day 6: Squamish (Distance: 48.2K; Elevation Gain: 1783 meters)
Pinners and jumpers love Half Nelson, but it’s Powerhouse Plunge that makes me giddy – a rocky mix that just asks you to maintain momentum and pick a decent line for a clean run and a fabulous time. Followed by almost-as-fun Hoods in the Woods, with loamy terrain, fun little bridges and speed you don’t have to check all that much. Ah, Squamish, you are always good to us. While I wish the BCBR video coverage would have captured one of us Sturdy Bitches on a tech section, I did get brief cameos for this stage at 1:06 and 2:02, and Katie had one at 2:53. (I also saw a mermaid on the trail sometime later, but I could have been seeing things.)
Day 7: Whistler (Distance: 24.8K; Elevation Gain: 775 meters)
I must confess, I didn’t even want to ride another day by the time the Whistler stage rolled around, but thank goodness I did. It was half the length of other stages, with relatively short, easy climbs through the bike park and Lost Lake trails. We did have a scare on Crank It Up, when a big group of us stopped for several minutes to check on a rider who had knocked himself out and was lying across the trail. It was a relief when he regained consciousness, but the experience was a terrifying reminder for us all to take extra care on the trails. Back to the fun: Pinocchio’s Furniture, replete with easy yet really cool ramp work, was a treat to come down, and I found the power moves up the rock sections of the Lost Lake trails to be the perfect way to close out seven days of epic riding. My favorite part of Stage 7: getting a helpful push up a ladder by one rider after slowing down to avoid a group of guys stalled out on the trail. Thanks—I needed that! You helped me clean the Lost Lake trails!
But all good things come must to an end…
To sum up, while I may not have been as fast in 2013 as I was in 2010, I did have more fun this time around—with my teammates, and with all of the other crazy people on the trails. I finished a solid 12th in most of the stages in the open women category (11th in Whistler), while pulling 14th overall due to my problematic Day 4.
Thanks to BCBR for an amazing riding vacation, Diamondback for my dependable, fast bike, Sturdy Bitch Racing for the best teammates a girl could ever hope to ride with, and all our friends, sponsors and supporters who helped us make this amazing week happen.
See you on the trails!
Angela Sucich, freelance writer